A businessman who grew up helping his parents brew traditional Zimbabwean beer is one of three entrepreneurs behind the Masau Craft Distillery (MCD) in Krugersdorp which aims to put African beverages on twghe world map.
MCD chief executive and master distiller Lameck Garonga, chief financial officer Blessed Magagada and sales and marketing manager Bongiwe Mokhemisa said they had struck the sweet spot with Masau and are on course to producing a genuine African whisky by 2027.
“Our spirits will not be available in retail shops anytime soon. We strongly believe in social distancing and saving lives and we encourage responsible drinking of our alcoholic beverages while we isolate with friends and family,” Garonga said – adding that anyone could now order online – and they deliver.
Garonga said throughout his childhood he had virtually grown up with traditional brewing in the family – and what started as a hobby while watching and assisting his parents to brew traditional Zimbabwean beer – this had become a natural training ground for him in fermentation, management of yeast and knowing about concentrates, acid, chemicals and brewing.
MCD is a medium-size batch craft distillery that uses new techniques to distill new flavours – unique to southern Africa and marketed online and distributed to local, regional and international consumers.
Former banker Mokhemisa said the company had successfully applied traditional recipes and hand-crafted techniques into modernist commercial brewing.
“The Masau spirits business idea made sense as it encompassed our very rich and similar traditions as Southern Africans.
“I am Zulu and traditional fermentation of umqombothi and distillation of alcohol plays a big part in our traditional ceremonies.
“Here we have just modernised and packaged the spirit and warmth of the people of southern Africa into a bottle to maintain our heritage and culture for generations to come,” said Mokhemisa.
Masau – ziziphus mauritiana – and without a common English name – grows wild in Zimbabwe – where it is valued for its sweet and fruity taste – has been a food source commodity for locals – now valued for its nutritional content and commercial potential as a wild harvest cash crop.
The Masau itself looks like a date and is found mainly in southern Africa, and the proponents of the project chose the name Masau to keep the original name of the fruit as it is known in Zimbabwe and the region to become the brand name.
Garonga and MCD chief financial officer Blessed Magagada – both connoisseurs – said they had undertaken eye-opening trips to Scotland whisky festivals – learning a lot about how brewing traditions had been preserved for generations in that part of the world – into global brands – and it was time to take such pride in African brands and traditions as well.
While the pair were exercising their natural talents in the distillery business – they had equally concluded as a company – that they had to do something about preservation of African brands and traditions with a modern approach – using new technology to connect those looking for a different taste – whether it be foreign tourists visiting the continent seeking a taste of what the locals are drinking – but also the African diaspora craving a change from the usual commercial brands.
The Masau Wooded Brandy was awarded two prestigious bronze medals in the brandy category and the New Brand Launch and the Design & Packaging Awards – at the UK International Spirits Challenge 2020.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE